Saildrone Drone Category 4 Hurricane Sam Storm
The Saildrone Explorer SD 1045 isn’t an ordinary drone, as it managed to spend an entire day inside Hurricane Sam collecting data from the edge through the eyewall of the category 4 storm. During its 24-hour stay, it transmitted in near real time data, images, and video of the storm using a satellite connection. It easily sustained winds over 90 mph and waves that measured over 50 feet without a single sensor failing.

What they discovered was that the low-salinity layer on the surface may have played a large role in keeping the surface of the ocean warm and allowing more evaporation of energy, fueling the hurricane. How is this possible? The fresh water that impacted Hurricane Sam most likely came from the Amazon River.

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Saildrone Drone Category 4 Hurricane Sam Storm

The point of the whole scientific mission was to measure the surface flux within hurricanes, especially around the eyewall—and we got it! But before the mission began, my primary goal was to see if the new short-wing vehicle would work, because we just didn’t know. I told everyone, ‘If this vehicle can survive a hurricane, then this would be a big success story.’ The whole mission exceeded my expectations,” said Chidong Zhang, director of the Ocean Climate Research Division at NOAA PMEL.

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